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Subject: BOD not accepting Certified Letters
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AbigailD
(Florida)

Posts:4


05/05/2020 12:44 PM  
I’m not sure what to do. I keep sending Certified Letters to the Board and after a few weeks they’re returned to me. The official mailing address is a PO box so they get a notice that the letter arrived but they never sign for it.

The Board thinks they know that I’m asking for the details of a construction project - maybe, maybe not. It seems to me they think they can just disregard the Certified Letters. Can they? Does it make sense to send a Cert Letter to the Associations Law Firm?

What should I do, any suggestions?

BTW - I'm new to the forum. I don't see how to format replies? I see that some reply's put a 'box' around past copy and include that in their response. How do you do that? Thanks.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3224


05/05/2020 12:53 PM  
Why don't you just go to a meeting and ask them direct!y? Does the board have an email you can try? If so, try that and see what happens. Perhaps review a few board meeting minutes, some of your questions may have been answered.

You might also take a look at your letters -if there was name calling,fuss words and or accusing them of incompetence or worse, I can see why they may not want to espond, although they should acknowledge your letter was received. If that's thecase, to to the meeting, apologize for the bad behavior and start over.




AugustinD


Posts:3364


05/05/2020 12:55 PM  
Posted By AbigailD on 05/05/2020 12:44 PM
I’m not sure what to do. I keep sending Certified Letters to the Board and after a few weeks they’re returned to me. The official mailing address is a PO box so they get a notice that the letter arrived but they never sign for it.

The Board thinks they know that I’m asking for the details of a construction project - maybe, maybe not. It seems to me they think they can just disregard the Certified Letters. Can they? Does it make sense to send a Cert Letter to the Associations Law Firm?

What should I do, any suggestions?
First, is this a condominium, townhouse community, or HOA? Do you know whether it is subject to Florida statute 718? Or is it subject to Florida statute 720?

Second, I would look up the HOA/condo at the Florida Secretary of State site, https://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/search/ . See if a "registered agent" is listed for the HOA/condo. "Registered agent" denotes a legal agent of the HOA/condo authorized and required by law to accept letters like yours. The Secretary of State expects this to be kept up to date (or else). The Registered Agent is to whom you want to send your certified letter.

Posted By AbigailD on 05/05/2020 12:44 PM
I see that some reply's put a 'box' around past copy and include that in their response. How do you do that?
In the upper right of each person's post is the option to "Quote" or "Reply." Click on "Quote."
MarkW18


Posts:1067


05/05/2020 1:12 PM  
Post Office is not handling certified mail at this time
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3805


05/05/2020 2:28 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 05/05/2020 12:55 PM
Second, I would look up the HOA/condo at the Florida Secretary of State site, https://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/search/ . See if a "registered agent" is listed for the HOA/condo. "Registered agent" denotes a legal agent of the HOA/condo authorized and required by law to accept letters like yours. The Secretary of State expects this to be kept up to date (or else). The Registered Agent is to whom you want to send your certified letter.

Absolutely. A corporation in Florida is required to have a Registered Agent. The penalty for not having one is a slap on the wrist, but not having one could spell disaster if the Association was ever sued.

Sooner or later the USPS will start doing Certified mail again. A Registered Agent won't refuse any mail.
AugustinD


Posts:3364


05/05/2020 2:32 PM  
This USPS site seems to indicate that USPS is still handling certified mail:
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/USPS-Coronavirus-Updates-for-Residential-Customers

Also, the OP could personally drop the letter off with the Registered Agent and ask for a signed receipt.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2681


05/05/2020 2:46 PM  
The members of the board must be known, right? Send them letters.

Apparently, you are not a board or committee member?

Agree, though, if you have been overly aggressive in the past, they may simply ignore you ... then you must attend the Board meetings.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9306


05/05/2020 3:54 PM  
I am not sure anyone will take a certified letter at a P.O. box. It's kind of a general box representing the HOA. So no one board member may be responsible. If you have a PM, they may take care of the P.O. box. I just don't think your sending the certified letter correctly nor necessary.

Will tell you that you can't serve certain legal instruments on a P.O. box. Had someone owe me a bunch of money for not paying me rent. He did not have a mailbox but only a P.O. box. Which means my "warrant" could not be served because the property had to have a mailbox. The warrant has to have an exact description of the property of which it is being served. P.O. boxes don't necessarily meet that criteria.

So considering that, it may be why a certified letter isn't being picked up or recognized at the P.O. box. Like others, you need to attend the meetings not just send letters. Plus realize your issue has to be discussed amongst ALL the attendees at the meeting. So it's not just 1 person's decision but a group at large.

Former HOA President
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16778


05/06/2020 4:56 AM  
I always send a certified letter and a first class mail letter.
In the letter I specify:

To:
From:
Date:
Ref:
Sent via Certified mail (I use the green tracking numbers and include the tracking number here)
Sent via First Class Mail

This way, if the certified mail is returned, you know that they got the first class mail copy.


If the certified letter is returned, don't open it.
It can be proof if needed that you did try to contact.
Let the court open it.



If the Board is not accepting the certified letter, and the registered agent is someone other then a board member, send it certified to the registered agent specifying in that letter that you are sending it here because the board is refusing to accept certified mail.


Note about PO boxes: With stay at home orders, it's possible that those who pick up the mail, prefer to comply with the stay at home order and not stand in line to pick up the mail. Keep that in mind.
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:860


05/06/2020 5:19 AM  
What should I do, any suggestions?




Why bother sending certified letters: are they required by your governing documents?

Just email or send regular mail without a return address on it. That way you will have proof of contacting them (by email) and if for whatever reason you want to use the US mail, they can't avoid mail by refusing to sign.

This seems like overkill though.
AbigailD
(Florida)

Posts:4


05/06/2020 8:21 AM  
Thanks Everyone! It's my understanding that in FL the Association is required to produce certain documents that are requested in a Certified Letter to the Board at the Associations legal mailing address. You do not need to explain why you want to see the records and the Association must provide those within 10 days.

AugustinD, yes our HOA is detailed at the site below. The Registered Agent is the Associations Law firm.

To quote you (can't figure out how to box) Florida Secretary of State site, https://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/search/ . See if a "registered agent" is listed for the HOA/condo. "Registered agent" denotes a legal agent of the HOA/condo authorized and required by law to accept letters like yours. The Registered Agent is to whom you want to send your certified letter.

So, to do this properly I'm thinking - send a Cert Letter to the Association and the same to our Law firm addressed to "Our HOA" C/O "Our Law firm" Attention: "Our lawyer assigned to our HOA".

Does that work ok?


AugustinD


Posts:3364


05/06/2020 9:35 AM  
Hi AbigailD, until you tell me otherwise, I am going to assume this is a condominium.
Posted By AbigailD on 05/06/2020 8:21 AM
to do this properly I'm thinking - send a Cert Letter to the Association and the same to our Law firm addressed to "Our HOA" C/O "Our Law firm" Attention: "Our lawyer assigned to our HOA".
For a records request, the only addressee that the Florida Condo Act and the Florida Not for Profit Corporation Act require is the Association/corporation. In legal parlance, this translates to the registered agent of the corporation. I would send the letter to the following addressee:

[Name of Condominium]
c/o [name of law firm]
Registered Agent
123 Main Street
Anytown, FL 67890

You may want to start studying 718.111 (12) (b) at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0718/Sections/0718.111.html . To get to this section quickly, go to the latter site and do a keyword search for "official records". I would start the letter with words like, "Pursuant to Florida Statute 718.111, I request the following records... " Be super polite. Let the process work. Fortunately Florida fines if the records are not produced in a certain timeframe and are among the ones a condo member is legally entitled to review.

Pay attention to what, if anything, both the statute and your Condos Bylaws/Declaration allows the condo to charge for records.
AbigailD
(Florida)

Posts:4


05/07/2020 12:13 PM  
Sorry for not clarifying that we are an HOA. I'll send this as you suggest below.

[Name of HOA]
c/o [name of law firm]
Registered Agent
123 Main Street
Anytown, FL 67890

What I've wondered about is how do you document the specifics of the letter sent by Certified Mail. Do you send a copy to yourself Certified. That's seems a bit much. Maybe there's a different approach. If I had a lawyer I could copy them but I don't. I would think I'm not the only person who wonders about this.

Sorry for asking so many questions. Thank you.

BTW, I haven't had time yet to look at those web sites but I definitely will.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2681


05/07/2020 12:38 PM  
Abigail,

Did you send letter(s) to the Board - the directors on the Board?
AugustinD


Posts:3364


05/07/2020 12:57 PM  
Posted By AbigailD on 05/07/2020 12:13 PM
we are an HOA.
If it's not a condominium, then Florida Statute 720 (not 718) applies. Look it up on the net and see the sections on record inspection.

The courts have long recognized a receipt from a letter sent certified mail, along with a signed statement under oath that the item was sent certified mail to the recipient, as proof the letter was sent.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3805


05/07/2020 2:17 PM  
FS 720.303(5)(a) says, "The failure of an association to provide access to the records within 10 business days after receipt of a written request submitted by certified mail, return receipt requested, creates a rebuttable presumption that the association willfully failed to comply with this subsection."

I'm not a lawyer, but the flat-out refusal to accept a piece of certified mail sent in order to obtain access to the official records might very well be construed to be a "willful failure" to comply with "FS 720.303(5) - INSPECTION AND COPYING OF RECORDS".

As suggested, when the certified mail is returned to you do not open it. That's your proof that you followed the procedure set out by the statute in good faith, and that the HOA is willfully denying your Official Records request.

If they don't give you access to the records within 10 days of the date on your letter you're entitled to $50 a day for up to 10 days. At that point, I think you'd want to file in Small Claims Court for the amount of "damages" (see the statute) you're entitled to. Before you do that, you must submit to the HOA a demand for presuit mediation; See FS 720.211(2)(a). If you send that demand certified mail and they ignore it, then that's considered an impasse (in mediation terms). Then you can go ahead and file in Small Claims Court. When the court sends them a summons via certified mail, you'll automatically win if they refuse to accept delivery of that notice.

SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3224


05/07/2020 2:47 PM  
I still don't know why you don't go to a meeting and ask about the letters - seems to me that would be a little faster. If the board has a group email, you could send it there and specify that your email let you know when the email shows up and when someone opened it. Or pick one or two board members and go to them personally and ask about this, perhaps giving them a copy of the letter. Keep track of who and when you spoke to them.

Anyway, it's been a while since I've sent certified letters, but I assume you can send them with a return receipt requested card - whoever gets the letter would have to sign for it, so you know it was delivered at least. If the letter comes back marked refused or no one picked it up, you would keep that for your records. As for documenting the specifics of the letter, didn't you make a copy for your own records? If not, do that.

You mentioned the registered agent, but does the association have a property manager you could send the letter to? I would try that.
AugustinD


Posts:3364


05/07/2020 4:42 PM  
Genos: AFAIC your post covering all practical aspects and the 'big picture' of a failure to respond to a Florida Statute 720 HOA records request is way helpful.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2681


05/07/2020 6:30 PM  
Abigail,

Have you sent letters to the Board?

Have you attended Board meetings and asked about this?
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3805


05/08/2020 1:03 PM  
It's still way more complicated than it needs to be, IMO. For instance, if it was me, do I want to get an attorney to draft my demand for pre-suit mediation? How would me, myself and I go about choosing from a list of mediators? There's a cost to file and I'd want to make sure I did everything possible to maximize the chances of recovering ALL my costs and expenses. I have to think most HOAs, when served with a demand for pre-suit mediation, would wake up, smell the coffee, and realize when they're about to get into a no-win situation. At that point they should cave and ask for the pre-suit mediation demand to be dropped in exchange for an agreement to immediately accede to the owner's demands and pay the owner's expenses thus far; probably a lot lower in the early stages than they'd be later on.

Of course this would be prediacated on the HOA receiving competent legal advice regarding how likely they are to win or lose in a mediation vs a potential lawsuit. That's not assured, nor is a Board's willingness to listen to reason.

In any case, I think there's more to the OP's story than what we've heard. I think ignoring certified mail is something even the worst HOA/Condo Board in the world wouldn't do.
AbigailD
(Florida)

Posts:4


05/12/2020 10:22 AM  
Wow....just wonderful input! I still can't figure out how to "box" text so I'll do it this way:

SheliaH - thanks for tracking and weighing in on this. For years, myself and other Members tried all the things you suggest and more with little results. We're done with being PC. We want a response and answers so I'll follow AugustinD's and GenoS's advice and will send a Cert Mail to the Registered Agent, send same by snail mail to the Association's PO Box, AND email a PDF of the letter to the Board. Done.

Geno, I'll echo Augustin that your detail for recourse is "way helpful" to me and many other Floridians.

I have a few questions on the Small Claims approach and was wondering if that conversation should stay in this thread or start a new one? Ex: Failure to comply is $50 day with 10 day max = $500. Can you add legal fees to that? How about pain, suffering, mental and emotional anguish!

Also, I'm wondering about the scenario where the Board DOES respond to a valid and specific Request under FS 720.303.5 BUT the information they provide is KNOWN to not satisfy the Request? What next steps are there? First, I imagine is a detailed Cert letter that challenges the Associations response so it's documented. Are there court rulings on these questions that I can read? Should this be in a new thread?



GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2681


05/12/2020 11:40 AM  
Abigail,

Have you sent letters to the Board?

Have you attended Board meetings and asked about this?
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